A screenshot of a weather forecast reappears in my timelines. It depicts a series of rain clouds and dreary temperature predictions. Above it are the words “God doesn’t like country opera houses”.
Contrary to the predominantly grey skies, British summertime is here, causing headaches for event organisers up and down the land. Despite the online joke, most opera festival performances are undercover – but part of the appeal of the country house setting is the extended interval in which attendees are invited to picnic in the gardens. Glyndebourne (until August 25) even has three on-site restaurants, while others, such as Garsington (until July 26) offer tents that can be booked in case of drizzle, or Indian pavilions as they are known at Grange Park Opera.
It’s not just opera festivals that are affected by the weather. Prommers have started appearing outside London’s Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms (until September 14), where up to 1,350 standing tickets – costing just £6 – are made available on the day of each concert. Although some tickets are available online (between 9am and noon), the majority are purchased in person. Speaking from experience, the queue is infinitely more hospitable when the sun is shining.
— BBC Proms (@bbcproms) July 19, 2019
I recently enjoyed another bastion of the arts calendar, the Aldeburgh Festival, which has grown into an annual two-week pilgrimage for classical music fans from all over the world. When the composer Benjamin Britten and his partner, the tenor Peter Pears, first hosted the Aldeburgh Festival in 1948, the event comprised a series of small-scale concerts held in the village hall.
Thanks to the couple’s enterprising spirit and determination to bring internationally acclaimed musicians to their beloved Suffolk, the festival developed a dedicated following that continues to this day. Although Jubilee Hall – the community centre adjacent to Britten’s former home – is still used for the occasional concert, most events take place at Snape Maltings, a creative campus formed of converted industrial buildings that sit on the River Alde, surrounded by reed beds, sculptures and birdsong.
Aldeburgh Festival is now run by Snape Maltings, headed up by former Proms director and Radio 3 controller Roger Wright. Besides the 832-seater concert hall (one of my favourite venues, with the exception of the seats – punters can be seen carrying their own cushions into shows), there is the Britten Studio (far kinder on the posterior), exhibition spaces and a bar with spectacular views of the Snape plains. (There are also useful things like a pub, cafe and shops selling twee giftware.)
In addition to the festival and broader concert programme, Snape Maltings has added the Snape Proms to its offering. Last year, the season broke its attendance record, selling more than 23,000 tickets. This summer’s Proms runs throughout August with tickets starting at £7.50. Highlights include a cappella masters The Swingles (August 2); pianist Ben Grosvenor (August 11) and saxophonist Jess Gillam (August 18). Plus, Peppa Pig makes an appearance to give a family-friendly introduction to the orchestra (August 18).